Writings: Biosecurity Queensland's Fire Ant Program blows budget. $400m between 2001 - 2016. Most of another $400m in 4 years. Infestation blows out from 40,000ha to >650,000ha. Program wants more money, but hiding latest audit report. Time for a Royal Commission.

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The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is an unmitigated failure by any measure.

From 2001 to 2016, the program wasted $400m of public money and the fire ant infestation blew out from 40,000ha to 400,000ha.

In just four years, from 2017 to 2021, the program blew most of another $400m and fire ants now infest over 650,000ha of south-east Queensland.

Independent reviews say the program has never collected consistent and reliable performance data. The program has no evidence it has ever eradicated anything.

In the face of this irrefutable evidence of failure, Biosecurity Queensland wants more public money to perpetuate this fire ant fiasco.

Will they get it?   The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is a national program, implemented by Biosecurity Queensland. 50% of the program’s funding comes from the Commonwealth government. The other 50% comes from the States and Territories. Queensland’s contribution is only 10%.  The Australian Agricultural Ministers’ Forum will decide the future of the program, based on an independent audit of the program by ex Commonwealth Inspector General of Biosecurity, Dr Helen Scott-Orr.  

The 2019 independent audit of the program was conducted by Mr Bernard Wonder, ex-Deputy Secretary of the Australian Department of Agriculture. His report was scathing – poor science, poor operations, no outcome focussed performance measures and poor governance unable to ensure the proper use of public money. He made 37 recommendations. The Agriculture Ministers’ Forum approved more funding. Will they again?

The Chair of the Steering Committee of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, Dr Wendy Craik, has had Dr Scott-Orr’s report in hand since August, but is yet to make it available to the public. What is she hiding?

Time for a Royal Commission to hold those responsible for this fire ant fiasco to account.

6th November 2021